Chicago Releases Master Plan for Union Station

Union Station, Chicago’s hub for intercity and commuter rail service since 1925, is to get a makeover according to a master plan released by the Emanuel Administration.

Over the years, there has been no shortage of grand plans for Union Station, which has grown increasingly crowded and uncomfortable for the 120,000 arriving and departing passengers who ride 300 trains into and out of the station every weekday.

The problem is, many of those plans have been too grand and too costly. As a result, it’s been 20 years since the last remodeling.

Now, City Hall is lowering its sights to more realistic short-term projects with identified funding while still maintaining a list of medium- and long-term plans that could be done if the money is ever found.

Short-term projects include: improved station entrances; expanded Amtrak waiting rooms; enhanced bus lanes on Clinton and Canal Streets and construction of an off-street CTA bus terminal on a surface parking lot south of Jackson Boulevard between Canal and Clinton.

The plan says projects that might be delivered in five to 10 years include: reallocating space currently occupied by baggage platforms to make way for wider commuter platforms; converting “unused mail platforms” to accommodate “inter-city passenger trains”; reorganizing existing station facilities to “improve capacity and flow” and rebuilding the Canal Street viaduct above parts of the station in a way that “improves street access” to the station concourse below.

Long-term ideas described as more “visionary” include “expanding or completely replacing” Union Station in the 200 or 300 blocks of South Canal. The master plan also evaluated the concept of adding more “track and platform capacity in one of two alternative underground alignments: Clinton Street or Canal,” according to a press release issued by the city’s Department of Transportation.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of transit in sustainable urban planning, the Roosevelt seminar SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning (offered this this fall as a hybrid course meeting in Schaumburg and online) may be of interest. For more information on these or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

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